IMPLEMENTING AN ASSESSMENT PLAN FOR INFORMATION LITERACY
Kristine R. Brancolini (brancoli@indiana.edu) and Erla P. Heyns (heynse@indiana.edu), Indiana University

Abstract

The "Assessment Plan for Information Literacy" at Indiana University Bloomington asserts the need for the teaching faculty to form partnerships with librarians to ensure an acceptable level of information literacy for all students. Several projects for implementing the plan will be presented, along with a case study on one School.

Paper

Our presentation this afternoon will be divided into three parts. First, I will describe the Indiana University "Assessment Plan for Information Literacy," which was adopted in 1996. Then, I will update you on our general progress in implementing the plan over the past two years. Then Erla Heyns will provide specific information about the challenges of implementing the plan in one school, Health, Physical Education, and Recreation.

The Indiana University "Assessment Plan for Information Literacy"

In 1994, Indiana University schools and departments began creating assessment plans in preparation for reaccreditation. At that time there was discussion about an assessment plan for information literacy, but the Libraries were not brought into the process until 1995. I was asked to chair a small committee of four librarians to draft an assessment plan for information literacy. We began our work in the summer of 1995. Although this was considered a difficult assignment, I was interested in drafting an information literacy plan for several reasons.

First, I felt that this process would allow librarians to participate in an important university-wide academic effort. I was appointed to a campuswide Assessment Committee and through those meetings learned about the school and departmental assessment plans.

Second, librarians were being asked to make recommendations to the faculty and the university administration about information literacy. The fear among librarians was that we would spend many valuable hours drafting a plan that would be primarily political. Once the accreditation was complete, would anyone ever look at the plan again? I concluded that regardless of the University's intentions, there was a chance we could use this opportunity to affect change. Here was our opportunity to take a proactive approach to information literacy, determining the kind of program that we believed would meet the needs of users. Third, we could use the plan to communicate throughout the library organization about information literacy and the need for all librarians to become involved. The University administration and the Library administration had made us an offer we couldn't refuse.

The committee had numerous reference documents to use as a point of departure. First, the academic schools and departments had completed their plans, so we had models to consults. Second, the library had drafted a policy statement on information literacy, although it had not been implemented. One of the librarians who drafted that statement was on the committee. Third, the library literature is filled with articles about information literacy and measuring it. Like most good librarians, we began with a bibliography and immersed ourselves in the work of other librarians. We wanted to learn from their efforts.

The Assessment Planning Committee completed its work in about ten months. The final draft is dated May 1, 1996. This afternoon I will share a few highlights of the process and the plan with you. Once the plan was accepted by the Libraries and by the Assessment Committee, the Libraries faced the question of implementation. Would we all simply file the plan away with other completed reports or would we actively attempt to implement the plan. We chose the latter. But first, drafting the plan.

We began with a University publication called the Handbook of Assessment Strategies: Measure of Student Learning and Program Quality, which the university published in 1993. In that document, we found this description of assessment:

At Indiana University Bloomington, assessment refers to research and inquiry into the improvement of teaching and learning. Assessment is a process in which goals and learning objectives of a program or course are identified and data are collected from multiple sources to document student, teacher, or program achievement of those goals and objectives. Multiple variations are possible: pre-test, post-test of students in a course or major; focus on faculty teaching styles; assessment of subject matter, learning or critical thinking skills; review of departmental goals and objectives, or other creative efforts generated by faculty or departments. (Handbook of Assessment Strategies: Measure of Student Learning and Program Quality, 1993, p. 4) In this same publication, we discovered that information literacy is most closely associated with "Student knowledge base and thinking skills: Applied practical experience," which was listed under both general knowledge and major program. The members of the committee agreed that information literacy is the application of critical thinking to an information problem. After considerable reading and discussion, we developed the following definition: 'Information literacy' is the ability of an individual to identify when information is needed, locate and evaluate relevant information, and use it effectively. We understood 'assessment' to include these essential components: stated goals and objectives and measurable results, with techniques for measuring learning outcomes.

Together, the four librarians on the Assessment Planning Committee have many years experience in both reference and instruction. We work at a university with 35,000 students and 1400 full-time faculty. It is not feasible for the library to assume complete responsibility for the information literacy of all students, undergraduate and graduate. We agreed at our first meeting that librarians, academic departments, and teaching faculty must form a partnership if we are going to ensure that all students achieve an acceptable level of information literacy by the time they graduate from Indiana University. We worried that academic departments and their faculty might not be sympathetic to this approach, so we developed a list of five assumptions as the basis for our plan. We hoped that these assumptions would help frame the document and answer questions before they arose.

Assumption 1. The information environment is too complex and changing too rapidly to expect students to acquire information literacy without a planned, systematic, cumulative instructional program. The hit-or-miss process that worked for students and scholars in the past is not efficient or effective today. Disciplines are changing. Students are expected to employ sophisticated information-gathering techniques for their coursework.

Assumption 2. The most effective learning about library and information use is tied to a specific information need and is often discipline-specific. Examples: preparation of a research paper for a credit class, gathering documentation for a persuasive speech, surveying the literature for a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, choosing a graduate school, finding a summer internship.

Assumption 3. Students must learn critical thinking and research skills in their disciplines as preparation for a lifetime of changing information needs.

Assumption 4. Students have different learning styles and acquire information in different ways. Any information literacy program must accommodate these differences by using a variety of approaches that provide practice in these skills.

Assumption 5. The IU Libraries cannot reach all students, nor can we meet all their training needs. The most effective way to reach all students and meet their information literacy needs is through a collaboration between the Libraries and the departments and schools and their faculty.

The "Assessment Plan for Information Literacy" is available on the web at this <URL: http://www.indiana.edu/~libreser/kris/assess-plan-info-lit.html>.

We concluded that there are two level of information literacy, basic and advanced/research level. We divided the plan into these two major sections. Under basic and advance information literacy we had goals, objectives, and possible measurement techniques. We also attached a glossary of measurement techniques – in case the teaching faculty are unfamiliar with terms like "pathfinder assignment" or "practicum examination" as applied to measuring information literacy. At the end of the document, we listed learning strategies for both basic and advanced information literacy. Basic information literacy should be acquired by the end of the sophomore year. At that time, a student is ready to enter his or her major field. Academic departments should incorporate the goals and objectives associated with basic information literacy into core courses at the 100 and 200 level, both for majors and non-majors, in collaboration with librarians in the Undergraduate Library and with subject bibliographers as appropriate. We expect that the library will be the lead partner at the basic level. However, the emphasis shifts at the level of advanced information literacy, which is described as follows: "As individuals move forward in their fields of study and specialization, their information needs change and the level of information literacy they need changes as well. It is appropriate that academic departments take responsibility for advanced/research level information literacy in collaboration with library subject specialists and other librarians with specialized knowledge. The discipline-specific nature of these skills dictate that departments develop specific goals and objectives customized to the unique culture of their approach to teaching a specific discipline and preparing scholars in these fields."

Following completion of the draft plan in the spring of 1996, the committee presented the plan to various librarian groups for input and comments. We received some suggestions for wording changes, but in general, the document was very well-received. The campuswide Assessment Committee was also extremely supportive of the document. When the assessment team visited the campus in the fall of 1996, the Assessment Committee met with them and they were also positive about the plan.

Implementing the Plan

So we have a pretty good plan that librarians and campus administrators accept and support, at least in theory. What next? What about implementation? Although I chaired the committee that wrote the plan, I did not plan to chair the implementation committee. However, I am interested in the validity of the plan and its successful implementation.

I teach a one-credit information literacy course in the School of Library and Information Science. This course is required of all Journalism majors. It is the only required course of its kind in the university. I was teaching the course when we were drafting the information literacy plan, so I measured much of the basic information literacy section of the plan against my course. I used the course to adjust the plan and vice versa.

Offering a for-credit course is one of the learning strategies for basic and advanced information literacy. Indiana University has taught at least three of these courses, one general course and two discipline-based courses, for the past six years. The general course has been taught for nearly 15 years. In 1993 the Journalism Librarian, who was on leave at the time, and the Acting Journalism Librarian approached the School of Journalism about creating the course that eventually became L155: Information Resources in Journalism. While course development was clearly a collaborative effort, librarians teach all sections, which I believe to be appropriate. Unfortunately, because the course exists, I find it difficult to convince the faculty that there is more to be done. Most students take this course in their freshman or sophomore years. We focus on teaching basic information with a journalism twist. The final assignment, for example, is a verification assignment taken from the requirements of a reporting class. However, we are not teaching advanced information literacy for majors and we do not teach graduate students. We expect the faculty to focus on these skills. The L155 instructors and the course coordinator in Undergraduate Library Services are currently working on a course evaluation. We hope to demonstrate to the Curriculum Committee that L155 is only the beginning. The goals and objectives of basic information literacy must be reinforced in other lower division courses and in upper division courses. We can help them do that. Advanced information literacy must be incorporated into upper division courses and graduate courses. We can also help them to do that. Librarians often complains that instructors do not know how to teach information literacy, but we must offer support and give them the tools they need to do so. How are we doing that at Indiana University?

First, we have produced a videotape called "An Introduction to Library Research." In 20 minutes this tape gives viewers an overview of the library research process, with an emphasis on finding and evaluating periodical literature. We produced the videotape because Erla Heyns, my co-presenter, was tired of giving the same presentation a hundred times a year. But we began work on it at the time I was completing the Assessment Plan for Information Literacy and we saw the videotape as one way to encourage faculty to incorporate information literacy into their courses. The tape has masters for handouts and exercise sheets. Librarians can use it with classes. Instructors can use it with classes. Students can use it independently, both on campus and off. The librarian who supports remote learners is actively promoting the videotape to that user population.

Second, we are developing and teaching workshops for faculty that specifically target information literacy skills. Again, we offer librarians as resources for planning, but we want the instructors to take responsibility for ensuring that their students are information literate. Erla and other librarians began receiving requests from faculty for help with teaching their students how to use the World Wide Web as an effective information source. The instructors were concerned about their students' lack of evaluative skills. As we know, many seem to assign the same credibility to an unsigned article on the Web as they would to an article in a refereed journal. One law professor remarked to me that his students cite more sources, but they are not the correct sources to support the students' arguments. It is not often that the faculty have come to ask us for this kind of assistance and we wanted to respond. Last summer a group of librarians taught two half-day programs, "Critical Thinking and the World Wide Web: A Mini-Conference for Faculty and AIs," on July 16 and August 18 <http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/eval/index.html>. For the first workshop we had about 120 attendees and for the second about 60. Not bad for the middle of the summer and the week before the beginning of the fall semester. We used these workshops, attended by faculty and associate instructors from many disciplines, to promote a collaborative approach to information literacy. Our hidden agenda was to emphasize that librarians assume only partial responsibility for teaching these skills. The faculty must share that responsibility. We created a web site to help faculty develop assignments that would teach their students to think critically about web resources. And we offered the services of librarians to assist them in their efforts to create meaningful web exercises and assignments. [NOTE: We also taught "Critical Thinking and the World Wide Web during the summer of 1998. Sponsored by the University’s Teaching and Learning Technology Lab, it was taught in two parts, a morning session on finding web resources and an afternoon session on evaluating and citing them. http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/eval/sched.html]

The IU Libraries have begun development of a third resource for faculty, a web site designed just for them. Undergraduate Library Services has created a site called "Resources for Instructors" <http://www.indiana.edu/~libugls/Instruction/services_instructors.html>. This web site is in the earliest stages and actually only went up on Monday of this week. The new site began as simply a reorganization of existing information. However, it soon became obvious that the web site offers new opportunities for encouraging instructors to incorporate information literacy into their courses. These are the choices on the home page:

This web site will provide resources for librarians as well as for instructors. We hope to gather many examples of handouts and exercises, so that we can share the hours of work we spend developing these teaching tools.

Next, Erla Heyns will tell you about a project underway at the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation to create an information literacy program that encompasses the entire curriculum.

Implementing the Assessment Plan for Information Literacy at the Indiana University Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) Library: A Case Study

As the head librarian at a campus library, a large part of my job is instruction. I believe that instruction is very critical not only for the students’ own education, but also because the student employees in the library cannot possibly provide users with the appropriate level of one-on-one instruction when they come to the library for their research projects. Our student employees do not have the level of expertise or experience to do much more than answer basic questions and help users with the most rudimentary database searches. In the HPER library, as is the case for most of the 15 campus libraries in Bloomington, we do not have full-time staff on duty on weekends, nor after 5 p.m. during the week. The School of HPER has 1,800 undergraduates and 300 graduate students, and many faculty require that students use the library for their assignments. Another factor that makes our School complex and that makes instruction a challenge is the fact that we have three departments in the School: Applied Health Sciences, Kinesiology and Recreation and Park Administration. The School offers 17 degree programs and one certificate program, with 18 undergraduate major emphases and 21 graduate major emphases. The programs cover both the Sciences and the Social Sciences, ranging from family studies to bio-mechanics.

In the light of the high use of the library and the inability of the staff in the library to deal with each student individually, I am very interested in implementing the "Assessment Plan for Information Literacy" in our School. I teach one-class sessions for many faculty on a regular basis, but I have found this to be quite unsatisfactory for many reasons. I have found that unless students have an assignment they are not very motivated, and they will still come to the library largely unprepared even after attending such a session. Kris referred to the video that we made and I now use that extensively as an introduction to library research, and many faculty in the School are using it as well. However, a systematic plan is needed -- for the good of the students and for the sake of my sanity.

We have a School of HPER Library Committee which has been very active, and I took a proposal to them to implement the "Assessment Plan." Kris also came to a meeting and presented the "Assessment Plan" to the committee; they were very supportive, but doubted that the School would support adding a for-credit course to the curriculum. The next step was to take the proposal to the three department chairs and the dean of the School. At this level the plan met with overwhelming support, except that they did not, indeed, want to add a for-credit course. Since we do not have any required courses in the School that all students take and because of the large number of students involved, ensuring that all HPER students achieve both basic and advanced information literacy skills provides us with some challenges.

I decided to focus my plan and to start with the graduate students. This group has very specific needs. I find that in general graduate students are more poorly prepared for library research than many upper-level undergraduates. Although they have a required research methods course, it usually occurs near the end of their programs. This course is geared towards students in all three departments and I always teach a one-time class within it. However, the students always express the wish that this information was presented earlier, and want more information than I can fit into one session. The video is also used in that class, but it does not touch on the specialized needs of these students.

We now have a pilot project that we will implement in the 1998 fall semester. I will teach a 3-hour seminar that is required for all incoming graduate students as part of their orientation. It will happen during orientation week before classes start. In terms of content, I will show the video, give an overview of the library system, demonstrate our online catalog and then demonstrate advanced searches in specific databases. I will also spend some time talking about searching the web and evaluating web resources. In conjunction with the workshop I will set up lab sessions that students can sign up for in groups of about 20. These will be subject specific and will allow for more in-depth and hands-on work. I plan to repeat this workshop every spring and fall, since we have students entering the program at different times. I have been working closely with the two faculty members who teach T590, the research methods course, in developing the content of the workshop. The goal remains to work collaboratively with faculty, and although I will be teaching the course I am seeking their input and support in developing the curriculum. I will also work closely with these faculty members to evaluate the effectiveness of this method of providing instruction so that we might make necessary modifications over time.

In terms of undergraduates, I have started working with a couple of faculty members immediately to teach several library literacy sessions of their classes. I have some ideas for broadening it to include all undergraduates, but the fact that we cannot add a credit course makes it more difficult and the situation requires creative solutions. As a first step I have developed a plan for instruction that would allows me to work collaboratively with faculty who teach computer-based courses, because one can clearly argue that information literacy is increasingly linked to computer literacy. I contacted two faculty members, one in Kinesiology and the other in Recreation and Park Administration. I expected to have to make a strong case to them to teach three or four sessions of their classes, but both of them were extremely supportive and interested in the concept. Last semester I taught three sessions for both classes. They each had four sections, so I actually taught 12 classes each week. I created two assignments and had the opportunity to grade them, which has allowed me to measure how well the students are retaining the material, and I will actually make some changes to the curriculum based on the outcome of these assignments. I custom designed the courses for the needs of the students in the two different disciplines. I see this as a starting point to build a comprehensive program for undergraduate instruction.

I do have some ideas on what a comprehensive plan might entail. Students might either test out of a library information literacy requirement or take a not-for-credit certificate class to meet the requirement. In order to accomplish the task of allowing students to test out of such a requirement, we are beginning to put together a working group to develop a web-based instruction program. This will be a multi-purpose program that could have many potential applications and that will allow faculty to become more fully integrated into the daunting task of making information literacy for all students a reality. Kris mentioned that the Undergraduate Library has developed a web page for faculty which includes information on instruction opportunities and handouts, as well as some modules for instruction. We plan to build on that and develop course and discipline-specific modules that will allow faculty to use them as is, or as part of their classes. They might modify it or simply provide a URL to their students and expect them to complete an assignment or test out of a requirement. Librarians will also be able to use these modules in their teaching, whether it is a one-class session or an entire course. This will allow us to reach large numbers of students and involve faculty, as well as empowering faculty to incorporate instruction in ways that we have not been able to do before. As a matter of fact when we presented the critical thinking workshop to faculty that Kris mentioned, the faculty asked us what level of information literacy they could expect their students to have and who is responsible for providing that training. The answer is that they have to be responsible. We can work with them, but we cannot do it all -- we, as librarians, are simply outnumbered. Working collaboratively, teaching faculty and librarians can come closer to achieving the goal of ensuring information literacy for every student.



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